What sounds like a Mae West film is, in fact, an exuberant evening of Patrick Page recounting his history as king of musical villains. From the moment the authoritative thespian lets loose that sonorous voice – mined from somewhere at the earth’s core- we know we’re not dealing with Prince Charming.
Page is a terrific storyteller. We learn about his childhood obsession with monsters and outlaws. At ten years old, watching Cyril Richard’s Captain Hook in the NBC television repeat of Peter Pan was transcendent. “…menace, panache…he didn’t even get to fly and he seemed to be having the most fun.” I swear his eyes sparkled. The dream to play a villain on Broadway may have seeded there. For “Captain Hook’s Waltz,” delivered in gleeful high dudgeon, the performer enlists his audience as pirates. “Hook, Hook!” or “Nobody!” we parrot back enthusiastically on cue, some of us happily mouthing Hook’s lyric as well.
After unsuccessful “try-outs” for several of his theater professor father’s productions, the young man secured the role of Fagin in Oliver. (The word “audition” is not used until he reaches New York.) During “Reviewing the Situation,” we get a smidgen of British accent, street spit, and sinister relish in man’s stupidity
Versatility is exemplified by “Be Our Guest” from Disney’s Beauty and the Beast, in which Page was cast despite protesting he was a classical actor. As the candelabra Lumiere, he manifest his best Maurice Chevalier vocal. “For the first time, I felt the joy of musicals.” And by “Pilate’s Dream” from Jesus Christ Superstar -in which the governor of Judea imagines himself blamed for Jesus’ grisly death. Page is suddenly thoughtful and wary, his voice almost cottony.
We sympathize with tales of being praised, but put on hold while directors search for bigger names. (The audience later spontaneously cheers when Page tells us he’s been cast without an audition.) An anecdote about being reviewed by The Lorax, his name for a lawyer for the Theodor Geisel estate, is captivating. Props following a rendition of “You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch” become the cherry on top.
Two chilling and effective numbers were never sung in shows: Alice Cooper’s ominous “Welcome To My Nightmare,” and Tom Waits’ bluesy, dirge-like “Dirt in the Ground” gave Page a “voice” for the Goblin in Spider-Man Turn Off the Dark. The show was offered him during a period of clinical depression about which the artist speaks with candor. Were it not for a last minute cast change, endless rehearsals, and extended previews, he would not have been healthfully back in his own skin by opening.
Alan Menken & Stephen Schwartz’s “Hellfire” from Disney’s upcoming Hunchback of Notre Dame gives us a preview of Page as Judge Claude Frollo, the minister of justice. “She will be mine or she will burn,” he sings vehemently, “God have mercy on her/God have mercy on me.” Clearly Page can’t wait to personify this menacing archetype.
The show is great fun (and very well written.) Page’s personal magnetism and plain spoken narrative skillfully balance overripe characters. Nobody does unsavory belly laughs and rancorous vocals better. It was, however, frustrating to watch Page stand mostly stock still through numbers that would have been more infectious with movement.
Note to Mr. Page: “Sweet Transvestite” from the iconic Rocky Horror Picture Show, here performed as an example of a successful musical vampire, is sung in the film by Dr.Frank-N-Furter, a scientist, nor is any other creature in the film a bloodsucker.
Photos courtesy of Stephen Sorokoff
Good To Be Bad
Patrick Page – Vocals
Piano- Joshua Stephen Kartes, Bass- Saadi Zain, Drums-Perry Cavari, Guitar-Steve Bargonetti
August 27, 2014
254 West 54th Street